CREATE Research Cited in U.S. Foreign Relations Committee Report

CREATE sponsored research by Eli Berman and Jacob Shapiro was used by the U.S. 
Foreign Relations Committee in a comprehensive report on U.S.
Civilian Aid in Afghanistan.

U.S. Projects Should be “Necessary, Achievable, and Sustainable"

Link to June 7, 2011 report, Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan pp. 31 and 32

Below is a summary of key report findings.

Washington, DC – As part of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s
ongoing efforts to examine progress in Afghanistan, Chairman John
Kerry (D-MA) today released a report that evaluates how the United
States is spending civilian assistance in Afghanistan. The United
States currently spends more on aid to Afghanistan than any other
country. With the upcoming transition to an Afghan security lead in
2014 and the increased responsibilities U.S. civilians will absorb
from the military, there is a critical planning window to make any
necessary changes to support a successful transition.

Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan is the most
comprehensive Congressional investigation to date of U.S. foreign
assistance to Afghanistan and focuses on funding appropriated by
Congress to the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International
Development (USAID). This report is the product of two years of staff
research and travel. It is intended to provide constructive and timely
guidance for administration officials at every level who are working
to guarantee that U.S. taxpayer-financed aid to Afghanistan is spent
in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

“We’re using assistance to build the capacity of Afghan institutions
and their economy which is critical to our national security
objectives in the region. There are real success stories from our
assistance efforts. But the administration acknowledges that serious
challenges remain and that’s why we’ve conducted a thorough review of
civilian aid investment in Afghanistan," said Chairman Kerry. “Given
the unprecedented levels of aid in Afghanistan and the Committee’s
oversight responsibility, we offer this report because we owe it to
American taxpayers to spend limited money as effectively as possible
and the administration is looking for the most effective approach.
This report contributes to their own review process by arguing that
assistance should meet three basic conditions before money is spent:
our projects should be necessary, achievable, and sustainable."

Evaluating U.S. Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan offers three
overarching recommendations for the Obama administration to pursue a
more effective assistance strategy in Afghanistan:

1) Consider authorizing a multi-year civilian assistance strategy for
Afghanistan. The administration and Congress should consider working
together on a multi-year authorization that includes: (a) a clearly
defined assistance strategy; (b) the tools, instruments, and
authorities required for a successful development approach; (c) a plan
as to how U.S. funding will leverage and partner with Afghan domestic
policies, with multilateral efforts – including the World Bank, Asian
Development Bank, and Islamic Development Bank – and with private
sector financing; (d) the civilian resources needed for a successful
military drawdown and transition; (e) the steps needed to ensure
accountability, oversight, and effectiveness; and (f) metrics that
measure performance and capture outcomes. The strategy should also
establish benchmarks for the Afghan government to fulfill its
international commitments, outline goals for improving donor
coordination, and include specific annual funding levels. This process
would clarify the U.S. assistance strategy, offer greater
predictability on future funding levels, and provide Congress with
robust tools for oversight.

2) Re-evaluate the performance of stabilization programs in conflict
zones. We must challenge the assumption that our stabilization
programs in their current form necessarily contribute to stability.
The administration should continue to assess the impact of our
stabilization programs in Afghanistan and reallocate funds, as

3) Focus on sustainability. We should follow a simple rule: Donors
should not implement projects if Afghans cannot sustain them.
Development in Afghanistan will only succeed if Afghans are legitimate
partners and there is a path toward sustainability. The Afghan
government must have sufficient technical capability and funding to
cover operation and maintenance costs after a project is completed. A
sustainability strategy would consolidate our programs, increase
on-budget aid, streamline our rules and controls, and pursue a limited
number of high-impact programs that do not require complex procurement
or infrastructure. We should also focus on raising domestic revenue,
reducing aid dependency, and developing partnerships with the private
sector to create jobs. Success should not be measured by outputs or
the amount of money spent, but by the ability of Afghan institutions
to deliver services, the Afghan private sector to generate jobs and
grow the economy, and Afghan civil society and public institutions to
provide avenues for citizens to hold their government accountable and
participate in political and civic life. More thought should be given
to the type of projects we fund. Our aid should be visible among
Afghans, and we should have a robust communications strategy in place
so Afghans know what U.S. civilian aid in Afghanistan is